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All Things Flow From 
The Holy Ghost: 



Selections from 

the Poems and Prose of 

Rainer Maria Rilke 

Edited by 
Ray Soulard, Jr. & Mio Cohen 

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Portland, O r e g o k 

Scriptor Press 

All Things Flow From 
The Holy Ghost: 

Selections from 

the Poems and Prose of 

Rainer Maria Rilke 

Edited by 
Ray Soulard, Jr. & Mio Cohen 

number four 

Sitting at your feet, Master, I learned to walk. 

Selections from the Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke 

English translations© 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987 Stephen Mitchell 

Burning Man Books is a Special Projects Division imprint of 

Scriptor Press, 32 Newman Rd. #2, Maiden, Massachusetts 02148 

[I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all] 

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all 
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life; 
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small 
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself. 

The wondrous game that power plays with Things 
is to move in such submissions through the world: 
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks 
and in treetops like a rising from the dead. 

The Idiot's Song 

They're not in my way. They let me be. 

They say that nothing can happen to me. 

How good. 

Nothing can happen. All things flow 

from the Holy Ghost, and they come and go 

around that particular Ghost (you know) — , 

how good. 

No we really mustn't imagine there is 

any danger in any of this. 

Of course, there's blood. 

Blood is the hardest. Hard as stone. 

Sometimes I think that I can't go on — . 

(How good.) 

Oh look at that beautiful ball over there: 
red and round as an Everywhere. 
Good that you made it be. 
If I call, will it come to me? 

How very strange the world can appear, 
blending and breaking, far and near: 
friendly, a little bit unclear. 
How good. 

The Panther 

In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris 

His vision, from the constantly passing bars, 
has grown so weary that it cannot hold 
anything else. It seems to him there are 
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world. 

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over, 
the movement of his powerful soft strides 
is like a ritual dance around a center 
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed. 

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils 

lifts, quietly — . An image enters in, 

rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles, 

plunges into the heart and is gone. 

Going Blind 

She sat just like the others at the table. 

But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup 

a little differently as she picked it up. 

She smiled once. It was almost painful. 

And when they finished and it was time to stand 

and slowly, as chance selected them, they left 

and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed), 

I saw her. She was moving far behind 

the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon 
have to sing before a large assembly; 
upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy, 
light played as on the surface of a pool. 

She followed slowly, taking a long time, 
as though there were some obstacle in the way; 
and yet: as though, once it was overcome, 
she would be beyond all walking, and would fly. 

Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. 

That was the deep uncanny mine of souls. 

Like veins of silver ore, they silently 

moved through its massive darkness. Blood welled up 

among the roots, on its way to the world of men, 

and in the dark it looked as hard as stone. 

Nothing else was red. 

There were cliffs there, 

and forests made of mist. There were bridges 

spanning the void, and that great gray blind lake 

which hung above its distant bottom 

like the sky on a rainy day above a landscape. 

And through the gentle, unresisting meadows 

one pale path unrolled like a strip of cotton. 

Down this path they were coming. 

In front, the slender man in the blue cloak — 
mute, impatient, looking straight ahead. 
In large, greedy, unchewed bites his walk 
devoured the path; his hands hung at his sides, 
tight and heavy, out of the falling folds, 
no longer conscious of the delicate lyre 
which had grown into his left arm, like a slip 
of roses grafted onto an olive tree. 
His senses felt as though they were split in two: 
his sight would race ahead of him like a dog, 
stop, come back, then rushing off again 
would stand, impatient, at the path's next turn, — 
but his hearing, like an odor, stayed behind. 

Sometimes it seemed to him as though it reached 

back to the footsteps of those other two 

who were to follow him, up the long path home. 

But then, once more, it was just his own steps' echo, 

or the wind inside his cloak, that made the sound. 

He said to himself, they had to be behind him; 

said it aloud and heard it fade away. 

They had to be behind him, but their steps 

were ominously soft. If only he could 

turn around, just once (but looking back 

would ruin this entire work, so near 

completion), then he could not fail to see them, 

those other two, who followed him so softly: 

The god of speed and distant messages, 
a traveler's hood above his shining eyes, 
his slender staff held out in front of him, 
and little wings fluttering at his ankles; 
and on his left arm, barely touching it: she. 

A woman so loved that from one lyre came 
more lament than from all lamenting women; 
that a whole world of lament rose, in which 
all nature reappeared: forest and valley, 
road and village, field and stream and animal; 
and that around this lament-world, even as 
around the other earth, a sun revolved 
and a silent star-filled heaven, a lament- 
heaven, with its own disfigured stars — : 
So greatly was she loved. 

But now she walked beside the graceful god, 

her steps constricted by the trailing graveclothes, 

uncertain, gentle, and without impatience. 

She was deep within herself, like a woman heavy 

with child, and did not see the man in front 

or the path ascending steeply into life. 

Deep within herself. Being dead 

filled her beyond fulfillment. Like a fruit 

suffused with its own mystery and sweetness, 

she was filled with her vast death, which was so new, 

she could not understand that it had happened. 

She had come into a new virginity 

and was untouchable; her sex had closed 

like a young flower at nightfall, and her hands 

had grown so unused to marriage that the god's 

infinitely gentle touch of guidance 

hurt her, like an undesired kiss. 

She was no longer that woman with blue eyes 
who once had echoed through the poet's songs, 
no longer the wide couch's scent and island, 
and that man's property no longer. 

She was already loosened like long hair, 
poured out like fallen rain, 
shared like a limitless supply. 

She was already root. 

And when, abruptly, 

the god put out his hand to stop her, saying, 

with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around — , 

she could not understand, and softly answered 


Far away, 
dark before the shining exit-gates, 
someone or other stood, whose features were 
unrecognizable. He stood and saw 
how, on the strip of road among the meadows, 
with a mournful look, the god of messages 
silently turned to follow the small figure 
already walking back along the path, 
her steps constricted by the trailing graveclothes, 
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience. 

Archaic Torso of Apollo 

We cannot know his legendary head 

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso 

is still suffused with brilliance from inside, 

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, 

gleams in all its power. Otherwise 
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could 
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs 
to that dark center where procreation flared. 

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced 
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders 
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur: 

would not, from all the borders of itself, 

burst like a star: for here there is no place 

that does not see you. You must change your life. 

Buddha in Glory 

from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge 

Center of all centers, core of cores, 
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet — 
all this universe, to the furthest stars 
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit. 

Now you feel how nothing clings to you; 
your vast shell reaches into endless space, 
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow. 
Illuminated by your infinite peace, 

a billion stars go spinning through the night, 
blazing high above your head. 
But in you is the presence that 
will be, when all the stars are dead. 

". . . Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too 
early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and 
sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and 
then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten 
good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply 
emotions (one has emotions early enough) — they are 
experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see 
many cities, many people and Things, you must understand 
animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which 
small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must 
be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to 
unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen 
coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still 
unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they 
brought in a joy and you didn't pick it up (it was a joy meant for 
somebody else — ); to childhood illnesses that began so 
strangely with so many profound and difficult 
transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and 
to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to 
nights of travel that rushed along overhead and went flying with 
all the stars, — and it is still not enough to be able to think of all 
that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each 
one different from all the others, memories of women 
screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have 
just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have 
been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the 
room with the open window and scattered noises. And it is not 
yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them 
when they are many, and you must have the immense patience 
to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not 
important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, 
into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be 
distinguished from ourselves — only then can it happen that in 
some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their 
midst and goes forth from them." 

The Second Duino Elegy 

Every angel is terrifying. And yet, alas, 

I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the soul, 

knowing about you. Where are the days of Tobias, 

when one of you, veiling his radiance, stood at the front door, 

slightly disguised for the journey, no longer appalling; 

(a young man like the one who curiously peeked through the window). 

But if the archangel now, perilous, from behind the stars 

took even one step down toward us: our own heart, beating 

higher and higher, would beat us to death. Who are you? 

Early successes, Creation's pampered favorites, 

mountain-ranges, peaks growing red in the dawn 

of all Beginning, — pollen of the flowering godhead, 

joints of pure light, corridors, stairways, thrones, 

space formed from essence, shields made of ecstasy, storms 

of emotion whirled into rapture, and suddenly, alone: 

mirrors, which scoop up the beauty that has streamed from their face 

and gather it back, into themselves, entire. 

But we, when moved by deep feeling, evaporate; we 

breathe ourselves out and away; from moment to moment 

our emotion grows fainter, like a perfume. Though someone may tell us: 

"Yes, you've entered my bloodstream, the room, the whole springtime 

is filled with you ..." — what does it matter? he can't contain us, 

we vanish inside him and around him. And those who are beautiful, 

oh who can retain them? Appearance ceaselessly rises 

in their face, and is gone. Like dew from the morning grass, 

what is ours floats into the air, like steam from a dish 

of hot food. O smile, where are you going? O upturned glance: 

new warm receding wave on the sea of the heart . . . 

alas, but that is what we are. Does the infinite space 

we dissolve into, taste of us then? Do the angels really 

reabsorb only the radiance that streamed out from themselves, or 

sometimes, as if by an oversight, is there a trace 

of our essence in it as well? Are we mixed in with their 

features even as slightly as that vague look 

in the faces of pregnant women? They do not notice it 

(how could they notice) in their swirling return to themselves. 

Lovers, if they knew how, might utter strange, marvelous 

words in the night air. For it seems that everything 

hides us. Look: trees do exist; the houses 

that we live in still stand. We alone 

fly past all things, as fugitive as the wind. 

And all things conspire to keep silent about us, half 

out of shame perhaps, half as unutterable hope. 

Lovers, gratified in each other, I am asking you 

about us. You hold each other. Where is your proof? 

Look, sometimes I find that my hands have become aware 

of each other, or that my time-worn face 

shelters itself inside them. That gives me a slight 

sensation. But who would dare to exist, just for that? 

You, though, who in the other's passion 

grow until, overwhelmed, he begs you: 

"No more. . ." ; you who beneath his hands 

swell with abundance, like autumn grapes; 

you who may disappear because the other has wholly 

emerged: I am asking you about us. I know, 

you touch so blissfully because the caress preserves, 

because the place you so tenderly cover 

does not vanish; because underneath it 

you feel pure duration. So you promise eternity, almost, 

from the embrace. And yet, when you have survived 

the terror of the first glances, the longing at the window, 

and the first walk together, once only, through the garden: 

lovers, are you the same? When you lift yourselves up 

to each other's mouth and your lips join, drink against drink: 

oh how strangely each drinker seeps away from his action. 

Weren't you astonished by the caution of human gestures 

on Attic gravestones? Wasn't love and departure 

placed so gently on shoulders that it seemed to be made 

of a different substance than in our world? Remember the hands, 

how weightlessly they rest, though there is power in the torsos. 

These self-mastered figures know: "We can go this far, 

this is ours, to touch one another this lightly; the gods 

can press down harder upon us. But that is the gods' affair." 

If only we too could discover a pure, contained, 

human place, our own strip of fruit-bearing soil 

between river and rock. For our own heart always exceeds us, 

as theirs did. And we can no longer follow it, gazing 

into images that soothe it or into the godlike bodies 

where, measured more greatly, it achieves a greater repose. 

The Sonnets to Orpheus: I, 2 

And it was almost a girl who, stepping from 
this single harmony of song and lyre, 
appeared to me through her diaphanous form 
and made herself a bed inside my ear. 

And slept in me. Her sleep was everything: 

the awesome trees, the distances I had felt 

so deeply that I could touch them, meadows in spring: 

all wonders that had ever seized my heart. 

She slept the world. Singing god, how was that first 
sleep so perfect that she had no desire 
ever to wake? See: she arose and slept. 

Where is her death now? Ah, will you discover 
this theme before your song consumes itself? — 
Where is she vanishing? ... A girl, almost . . . 

The Sonnets to Orpheus: II, 13 

Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were 
behind you, like the winter that has just gone by. 
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter 
that only by wintering through it will your heart survive. 

Be forever dead in Eurydice-more gladly arise 
into the seamless life proclaimed in your song. 
Here, in the realm of decline, among momentary days, 
be the crystal cup that shattered even as it rang. 

Be-and yet know the great void where all things begin, 
the infinite source of your own most intense vibration, 
so that, this once, you may give it your perfect assent. 

To all that is used-up, and to all the muffled and dumb 
creatures in the world's full reserve, the unsayable sums, 
joyfully add yourself, and cancel the count. 

The Sonnets to Orpheus: II, 29 

Silent friend of many distances, feel 
how your breath enlarges all of space. 
Let your presence ring out like a bell 
into the night. What feeds upon your face 

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered. 
Move through transformation, out and in. 
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered? 
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine. 

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power 
that rounds your senses in their magic ring, 
the sense of their mysterious encounter. 

And if the earthly no longer knows your name, 
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing. 
To the flashing water say: I am. 

[What birds plunge through is not the intimate space] 

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space 

in which you see all forms intensified. 

(Out in the Open, you would be denied 

your self, would disappear into that vastness.) 

Space reaches from us and construes the world: 

to know a tree, in its true element, 

throw inner space around it, from that pure 

abundance in you. Surround it with restraint. 

It has no limits. Not till it is held 

in your renouncing is it truly there. 

[World was in the face of the beloved] 

World was in the face of the beloved — , 
but suddenly it poured out and was gone: 
world is outside, world can not be grasped. 

Why didn't I, from the full, beloved face 
as I raised it to my lips, why didn't I drink 
world, so near that I could almost taste it? 

Ah, I drank. Insatiably I drank. 

But I was filled up also, with too much 

world, and, drinking, I myself ran over. 

[Rose, oh pure contradiction] 

Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy 

of being No-one's sleep under so many 


from Letters to a Young Poet 

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You 
have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. 
You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when 
certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you 
want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You 
are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid 
right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is 
only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the 
reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread 
its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself 
whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. 
This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your 
night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if 
this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn 
question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in 
accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its 
humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and 
witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if 
no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel 
and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms 
that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work 
with, and it takes great, fully ripened power to create something 
individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in 
abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes 
and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe 
your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your 
mind and your belief in some kind of beauty - describe all these 
with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express 
yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your 
dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday 
life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to 
yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its 
riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, 
indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, 
whose walls let in none of the world's sounds - wouldn't you still 

have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure 
house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up 
the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will 
grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place 
where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other 
people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of this turning- 
within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, 
then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good 
or not. Nor will you try to inte4rest magazines in these works: 
for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece 
of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen 
out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear 
Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and 
see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its 
source you will find the answer to the question whether you 
must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, 
without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you 
are called to be an artist. Then take the destiny upon yourself, 
and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking 
what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be 
a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in 
Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted. 

But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, 
perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I 
have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one 
shouldn't write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self- 
searching that I ask of you will not have been for nothing. Your 
life will still find its own paths from there, and that they may be 
good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say. 

What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its 
proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of 
advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your 
whole development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently 
than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to 
questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest 
hour, can perhaps answer.